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CLC grad double dips, graduates from both high school and college

Pine River-Backus High School senior Mandy Fontenot has always liked a challenge. It's why she's graduating this spring from both high school and Central Lakes College (CLC) with her associate's degree, why she was named one of CLC's graduation s...

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Mandy Fontenot gives her commencement speech Thursday during Central Lakes College’s commencement program at the Brainerd High School. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video)

Pine River-Backus High School senior Mandy Fontenot has always liked a challenge.

It's why she's graduating this spring from both high school and Central Lakes College (CLC) with her associate's degree, why she was named one of CLC's graduation speakers, and why she joined the honors program, which was renewed this year at the college, when she chose CLC.

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When CLC English instructor and honors program Coordinator Adam Marcotte invited Fontenot to check out the honors program, she jumped at the opportunity.

"The classes aren't harder," Fontenot said in a news release. "They focus on conversations deeper than other classes. It's not all surface-level thinking. It's questioning ideas versus just covering them."

Fontenot liked the teachers and wanted the extra challenge. As she completed her 12 credits of honors courses, Fontenot said her critical thinking skills advanced and she made a few new friends along the way.

"You meet people who challenge you versus just small talk," she said. "That's helpful in life."

The honors program represents all the best aspects of a private education, but it takes place in a public, affordably priced community college setting, Marcotte said.

In the program, students get faculty in small groups right away, so they can make the most of their first two years of post-secondary education. At larger or private schools, that kind of interaction doesn't happen until the third or fourth year of school, he said.

"The honors program values skilled leadership," Marcotte said. "It's not enough to be courageous or brave. Leaders must also have skills so that when they raise their hand and strive to make a difference in the world, they can."

While at CLC, Fontenot also won multiple CLC writing awards for poetry and she worked as a writing tutor in the CLC Learning Commons. She also consulted with faculty committees on retention and represented the honors program to other students, faculty, administration and Minnesota state representatives.

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This fall, Fontenot will attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where she will pursue a degree in English literature.

Mandy Fontenot (submitted photo)
Mandy Fontenot (submitted photo)

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